In this Practical Occult newsletter, guest author Sfinga of With Cunning and Command discusses the Ouroboros Phylactery of the Greek Magical Papyri.
From the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM VII-579-90):
“A phylactery, a bodyguard against daimons, against phantasms, against every sickness and suffering”
Even when I first began exploring the magic of the PGM, the Ouroboros Phylactery (PGM VII. 579-90) immediately caught my eye. Perhaps it’s because I, as I often joke with my closest friends, am easily baited by any magic involving serpents. There is some truth to the jest—even the most esoteric aspects of my witchcraft always lead back to serpents and dragons in some way or another, and my own slithering spirits will make pacts and entwine with those of other places and times as they please. Another option might be because, as a protective amulet, it is especially easy to construct, attractive to carry, and well-received in its strength and potency.
Yet the true reason this curious phylactery has always fascinated me is in its shape: that the ouroboros design encircles the words of power as well as the “body, and the entire soul” of the wearer. This pattern is deeply evocative of the Egyptian Mehen, a protective serpent deity who encircles Ra as he journeys through the night, preserving his body and soul on his voyage. Much as with other PGM rituals (including the parhedros ones) which grant a sort of pharaonic authority to the magician, outfitting them with the protection and prestige afforded to a deified king, this phylactery too calls upon the imagery of Mehen, the Coiled One, in preserving the wearer from all harms.
I have worked with this phylactery in various forms, including setting it up as a broader circle to burn figure candles and work wax fetishes within its borders for further protection. Alison’s artistry and precision, as always, takes this simple phylactery as an engraving upon tin to another level, cycling it through a lengthy conjuration and consecration of the twelve hours by the might of Helios, himself syncretized with the very Ra Mehen protects, such that it bestows a truly complete and flexible protection that goes above and beyond what would otherwise be expected.
When I received this precious amulet in the mail, I was eager to put it to the usual test I administer upon any tool I receive as a purchase or gift. I introduced it to the spirits of my home, door, and threshold, and burned incense before it, and asked that my protective and guiding spirits grant me some pause and room to carry solely this phylactery on my person without the influence of other allies, so that I could test it in isolation without wondering if an effect was the result of anything else. For some time, I would walk freely throughout the city, wearing it as a necklace under my jacket and seeing if I could notice its effects not only as a spirit itself, but in the ways in which it would guide me on my journey.
I found that the spirit of the amulet would appear to me as a golden-hued serpent, lithe and dextrous, coiling about the periphery of my spirit body, chasing its tail in eternal pursuit of my safety. Reacting to even my half-formed thoughts, it commanded those I did not wish to encounter or speak with to depart and ignore me, rendered me unnoticeable to those I did not wish to speak with, and even made the traffic around me especially and noticeably cautious when I was crossing the street. I could command the spirit to wrap me in a mesh of its golden scales such that I would shine brightly with authority and presence when I needed to be heard and my voice heeded, and furthermore it could even protect me from abstract notions such as boredom and wasted time, ensuring that I was tended to, put in the front of lines, and immediately assisted when need be. These effects were especially noticeable every time I wore it; like any excellent amulet, its presence was genuinely efficacious and made venturing out into the downtown core into a new experience.
The spirit could also accompany my subtle body into the dreaming world. On more than a few occasions it had intercepted a nightmare that was really an omen of another’s meddling, and exposed to me in the vortex within its Ouroboros hoop visions and images that proved exceptionally fortuitous and useful when I woke. The amulet and its spirit are ever-watchful, vigilant, potent, and proud; unrelenting in their protection and unrestrained in their application.
Alison’s marvelous work is a true testament to her craft, faithfully reproducing the magic of the texts and spirits she works with, and further empowering their testimony with a cunning that is both driven by her faithful spirit mentors and her own vast experience and creativity. I am delighted to engage with her work, and sincerely recommend her amulets and pentacles to all. Protection is something no sorcerer, no matter how masterful, should underestimate as a necessity, and this phylactery is top-notch in every dimension of the term.
This post was originally a Practical Occult newsletter dated December 29th, 2021 and written by guest author Sfinga.